One of Governor Phil Bredesen’s annual duties as the head of the state is to proclaim January 19th, “Robert E. Lee Day.” The law is listed in the Tennessee Code as a special observation, and asks Tennesseans to, “observe the day in schools, churches and other suitable places with appropriate ceremonies expressive of the public sentiment.”
Gen. Lee was born January 19th, 1807 and went on to graduate from West Point in 1829. He is probably best remembered for turning down President Abraham Lincoln's request to command the Union forces during the Civil War.
According to Douglas S. Freeman, who wrote a biography on Gen. Lee in 1934, the general justified his decision not to serve the north before having to make it when he said, “I shall never bear arms against the Union, but it may be necessary for me to carry a musket in the defense of my native state, Virginia, in which case I shall not prove recreant to my duty."
The Civil War ended with Gen. Lee’s surrender to the Union at Appomattox Courthouse in 1865.
He spent the last five years of his life helping the reconstruction process along and serving as president of Washington College which later became Washington and Lee University.
Lee died on October 12th, 1870.
January 19th, 2009 marked his 202nd birthday.